Jan 16, 2013, 12:20 PM EDT
Every day until the season starts we’ll explore an intriguing storyline for the upcoming year.
Last April, Florida’s gain was Toronto’s pain.
When the Panthers clinched a playoff spot on Apr. 5, they snapped the NHL’s longest postseason drought — 12 years — and passed that depressing mantle onto the Leafs.
It’s been seven years since the Leafs last made the playoffs. The last time they did it, in 2003-04, the roster included the likes of Mats Sundin, Joe Nieuwendyk, Ron Francis, Ed Belfour and Brian Leetch.
All five of those guys are now in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
So yeah, long time.
For one of the league’s most storied franchises — one recently fired GM Brian Burke called the “crown jewel” and “Vatican” of the NHL — that stretch of futility is unacceptable.
Which brings us to the question at hand:
Will the futility end this season?
If the early parts of training camp were any indication, there’s not a lot of optimism.
Toronto began the campaign in the most dysfunctional way imaginable — by firing Burke, the club’s outspoken architect.
His dismissal went down almost exactly as many figured it would, with a hailstorm of controversy, sound bites and unanswered questions as to why owners decided to turf the GM eight days prior to the start of a condensed regular season.
That hasn’t been the only distraction in Leaf land, either.
The goaltending situation — the bane of Burke’s four-year existence — is as convoluted as ever. Talks of an impending Roberto Luongo acquisition continue to swirl and, should that trade never come to fruition, there’s debate over which in-house candidate would be No. 1.
Former No. 1 James Reimer should be the starter by default, but he hasn’t played a competitive game since March 2011. He’s also looked shaky in camp and could be surpassed by Ben Scrivens, who has been playing frequently in the AHL and, according to CBC’s Glen Healy, looks like a confident goalie.
“Just looking at Scrivens’s body language, he seems to have a lot of swagger,” said Healy. “The biggest thing for goaltenders is that six inches between your ears — that belief that you can accomplish what you want to accomplish. That you can do it. That you’ve got confidence.
“His emergence into [the NHL] game could not be better timed, with the lockout ending and a lot of other players not playing.”
As for other personnel, the Leafs didn’t upgrade much from a roster that finished 13th in the Eastern Conference a year ago.
James van Riemsdyk came aboard (at the expense of losing Luke Schenn) and checking center Jay McClement was signed in free agency. Morgan Rielly, the fifth overall pick at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, could challenge for a roster spot, but is only 18 years old.
Which means Toronto might be seeking improvement from within.
To that end, the Leafs should have some optimism. One of the biggest disappointments from last year was Nikolai Kulemin, who saw his goal production decrease from 30 in 2010-11 to seven in 2011-12.
The 30-year-old Russian was active during the lockout, playing with Magnitogorsk of the KHL, racking up 38 points in 36 games.
But really, improvement has to come across the board. The only way the Leafs are going to make the playoffs is if everything about the team gets better, something head coach Randy Carlyle acknowledges.
“I’ve left the message with the players in departing last year that we were not competitive enough in all three zones,” Carlyle explained. “We have to be prepared to go — if you want to call it war in some situations, so be it — we want to be able to compete night in, night out, for every puck, every faceoff.
“That’s the message that’s been delivered. That’s the type of style we’re expected to play.”
For all the PHT Pressing Questions, click here.
May 28, 2015, 11:16 PM EDT
“They need to hear our anthem, that’s a part of losing.”
May 28, 2015, 10:02 PM EDT
Sharp says Blackhawks are ready for “whatever [the Ducks] throw at us.”
May 28, 2015, 8:58 PM EDT
Victor Hedman: “We’re prepared for this.”
May 28, 2015, 7:47 PM EDT
Retirement remains a possibility, and it might be his call.
May 28, 2015, 6:35 PM EDT
Even their first names are similar (Jordan and Jaden). Fun times ahead …
May 28, 2015, 5:30 PM EDT
Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, specifically.
May 28, 2015, 5:28 PM EDT
“The fact that Mr. Peladeau is a separatist…we know very well whether it’s the owners of the team in Toronto or the owners of the Canadiens, they’re not separatists and they don’t want Quebec to separate.”
May 28, 2015, 4:52 PM EDT
Says that “the expectation is to win right now.”
May 28, 2015, 3:48 PM EDT
Meanwhile, in the West, Corey Crawford has the edge in big-game experience over Frederik Andersen.
May 28, 2015, 3:39 PM EDT
Was set to become a UFA on July 1.
May 28, 2015, 3:26 PM EDT
Bit of a theme developing here…
May 28, 2015, 3:15 PM EDT
Pens to receive third-round pick in 2016 as compensation.
May 28, 2015, 2:21 PM EDT
After scoring 80 points in 56 games for Youngstown.
May 28, 2015, 2:08 PM EDT
Rangers goalie knows he can’t rely on history to defeat the Lightning.
May 28, 2015, 1:04 PM EDT
The former Penguins coach is still under contract to Pittsburgh.
May 28, 2015, 12:27 PM EDT
Former Preds forward, who played for Roy in junior, is currently with KHL club CSKA.
May 28, 2015, 12:22 PM EDT
Has spent the past three seasons coaching the Flyers’ AHL affiliate.
May 28, 2015, 12:05 PM EDT
Spent part of last season with the Bruins
May 28, 2015, 11:49 AM EDT
Which they lost by a score of 6-2.
May 28, 2015, 11:41 AM EDT
Which is next Wednesday.
- Duchene slams Russian players for storming off after Canada’s 2015 WHC win 0
- DeBoer predicts ‘big bounce-back’ in San Jose 8
- Sabres name Bylsma head coach 38
- Lundqvist on Game 7: ‘You’re definitely nervous, but it comes down to teamwork’ 16
- Report: Bylsma to Sabres being held up by compensation issue 56
- Stanley Cup Final to begin June 3 7
- Caps’ Backstrom undergoes arthroscopic hip surgery 5
- Report: Sens’ Murray to retire after next season 0
- Of course: ‘Hawks, Ducks’ back-and-forth series is going to Game 7 49
- WATCH LIVE: Ducks at Blackhawks, Western Conference Final Game 6 1
- Kesler on wearing down Chicago: ‘No human can withstand that many hits’ (75)
- From healthy scratch to hero: Vermette scores OT winner for Blackhawks (66)
- Report: Bylsma to Sabres being held up by compensation issue (56)
- On Kreider, and trying ‘to turn the other cheek’ (54)
- Fetisov wants to restrict young Russians from playing in the NHL (53)